Except where otherwise noted, the below is from ”The Vaccine Book” by Dr. Robert Sears (October 2007; pages 193 – 206), which provides much more detail. Some sections are copied verbatim, paraphrased or summarized.
Aluminum’s Role in Vaccines
Aluminum is added to a number of vaccines to help them work better. It is thought to be harmless when swallowed because it isn’t absorbed into the body.
Has Anyone Determined Safe Levels of Injectable Aluminum? It Appears Not.
Reading each product insert and looking at the micrograms of aluminum in several of the vaccines, Dr. Sears wondered, Has anyone determined a safe level of injected aluminum? Several documents on aluminum toxicity can be found on the FDA website as well as in the Resources section of The Vaccine Book by Dr. Sears.
Several studies examine aluminum toxicity from IV solutions and injectable medications, but none mention vaccines. Dr. Sears is not sure why, nor why the FDA does not require aluminum warning labels on vaccines when it does require a warning on all other injectable medications. Vaccines apparently have some sort of exemption.
When a baby gets the first big round of shots at two months, the total dose of aluminum can vary from 295 micrograms to a whopping 1225 micrograms. If the baby’s kidneys weren’t working well, having more than 30 micrograms floating around in his bloodstream at once could be toxic. For a child, more than 100 micrograms in his system could be toxic.
Below is a list that Dr. Sears provided, showing how much aluminum is in each vaccine:
- HIB (PedVaxHIB brand only) — 225 micrograms per shot
- Pc — 125 micrograms
- DTaP — depending on the manufacturer, 170 – 625 micrograms
- Hepatitis B — 250 micrograms
- Hepatitis A — 250 micrograms
- HPV — 225 micrograms
- Pentacel (DTaP, HIB, and polio combo vaccine) — 330 micrograms
- Pediarix (DTaP, Hep B, and polio combo vaccine) — 850 micrograms
Doing the math for us, Dr. Sears states that a newborn who gets a hepatitis B injection on day one of life would get 250 micrograms of aluminum. This dosage would be repeated at one month of age with the next hep B shot. When a baby gets the first big round of shots at two months, the total dose of aluminum can vary from 295 micrograms to a whopping 1225 micrograms if the highest aluminum brands are used and a hep B vaccine is also given. Even using the large combo vaccines doesn’t prevent aluminum overload. These doses are repeated at four and six months. A child would continue to get some aluminum throughout the first two years with most rounds of shots.
The FDA asserts that premature babies and any patient with impaired kidney function shouldn’t get more than 10 to 25 micrograms of injected aluminum at any one time.
Dr. Sears write: “My first instinct as a medical doctor is to worry that these aluminum levels far exceed what may be safe for young babies. But my second instinct is to assume that this issue has been researched and that studies have been done on healthy infants to determine their ability to excrete aluminum rapidly. My third instinct is to look for these studies, and so far I have not been able to find any. It is likely that the FDA thinks that the kidneys of healthy infants work well enough to excrete this aluminum rapidly before it can circulate through the body, accumulate in the brain, and cause toxic effects. However, I can’t find any references in the FDA documents that show that using aluminum in vaccines has been tested and found to be safe.”
What the American Academy of Pediatrics Has Published About Aluminum Toxicity
So Dr. Sears turned to the American Academy of Pediatrics, which published a policy in 1996 called “Aluminum Toxicity in Infants and Children.” Below are some key items:
- Aluminum can cause neurologic harm.
- A study from thirty years ago showed that human adults will increase their urine excretion of aluminum when exposed to higher levels (suggesting adults can clear out excess aluminum).
- Adults taking aluminum-containing antacids don’t build up high levels in their body.
- There have been reports of infants with healthy kidneys showing elevated blood levels of aluminum from taking antacids.
- People with kidney disease who build up levels of aluminum greater than 100 micrograms per liter in their bloodstream are at risk for toxicity.
- The toxic threshold may be even lower.
- Aluminum loading (tissue buildup) has been seen even in patients with healthy kidney who receive IV solutions containing aluminum over extended periods.
Completely absent from this paper was any mention of aluminum in vaccines.
Dr. Sears’ Assessment
An average adult has about 5 liters of blood. So having more than 500 micrograms in the bloodstream all at once would be toxic if his kidneys weren’t working well. Toxicity has also been seen in patients with healthy kidneys.
A newborn has a blood volume of about a third of a liter, or 300 milliliters. So having more than 30 micrograms floating around in his bloodstream at once could be toxic if the baby’s kidneys weren’t working well.
A child has about 1 liter of blood, so more than 100 micrograms in his system could be toxic. I’ve already stated that babies are sometimes injected with more than 100 micrograms at one time. Fortunately, this amount doesn’t go into the bloodstream all at once. It’s slowly diffused into the bloodstream over a period of time from the muscle or skin where it is injected.
The point is: No one has ever measured the levels of aluminum absorption into the bloodstream, then excretion into the urine and out of the body, when it is injected into the skin and muscle of infants. All the FDA and AAP documents say that it may be a problem, but we haven’t studied it yet, so we should limit aluminum in injectable solutions. But no one is talking about the levels in vaccines.
How Did Children’s Exposure to Aluminum in Vaccines Reach These Levels?
Dr. Sears suspects that what may have happened is that aluminum used to be in only one vaccine (DTP), so no one thought much about it. Then it started appearing in new vaccines and no one thought about the cumulative amounts / effects of aluminum in the vaccines in children.
We know from the FDA documents that aluminum toxicity does occur from other types of injectable treatments, that it accumulates in the brain and bones in toxic amounts, that this toxicity may occur more commonly than is recognized, and that it’s hard to detect just by observing symptoms.
Because aluminum may be toxic, why not just take it out of the vaccines, as was done with mercury? The problem is, aluminum is an adjuvant. This means that it helps the vaccines to work better. When aluminum is mixed with the vaccine components, the body’s immune system recognizes the vaccines better. So to take it out would decrease the vaccine’s effectiveness…
Aluminum’s Impact in Toxic Amounts?
What exactly does aluminum do in the brain when it builds up in toxic amounts? While no one has studied healthy babies to see how much, if any, aluminum from vaccines builds up, the study on IV feeding solutions in premature babies I discussed on page 196 revealed that aluminum impaired their neurologic and mental development. But that was in premature babies, not full-term healthy ones. I found several animal studies involving aluminum and/or aluminum-containing vaccines that did show neurologic harm. The aluminum built up in the brain and caused damage, some of which looked similar to what is seen in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. But it’s hard to correlate these findings precisely into human terms. What we need are more human infant studies.
Dr. Sears’ Recommendation to Minimize Exposure to Aluminum in Vaccines
Parents who wish to be very cautious and limit their baby’s exposure to aluminum can do the following:
- Ask your doctor to order the brand of HIB vaccine that does not contain aluminum (see page 6 of The Vaccine Book)
- Ask your doctor to avoid the brand of DTaP with the most amount of aluminum (see page 34 of The Vaccine Book). However, you should be aware that DTaP with the lowest aluminum also has a trace of mercury and uses cow tissue in manufacturing. The brand of DTaP with a moderate amount of aluminum does not contain mercury and does not use cow tissues.
- As for the hepatitis B, Pc, hepatitis A, and HPV vaccines, all available brands have the same amount of aluminum. Parents can limit the number of aluminum-containing vaccines given at any one time, but then their children will have to come in for extra “shot only” visits between checkups. In chapter 19, I will detail a vaccine schedule that allows you to get every vaccine in a timely manner, while getting only one aluminum-containing vaccine at a time.
- Avoid any combo vaccines that have more aluminum than the individual shots (see page 198 of The Vaccine Book).
Dr. Sears writes: “If I could sum up the aluminum controversy in three sentences, it would be this: There is good evidence that large amounts of aluminum are harmful to humans. There is no evidence that the amount of aluminum in vaccines is harmful to infants and children. No one has actually studied vaccine amounts of aluminum in healthy human infants to make sure it is safe… I worry that aluminum may end up being another thimerosal (mercury). (Please click on Mercury to read more.)
Alternative Vaccine Schedule
In his book, The Vaccine Book, Dr. Sears provides an alternative vaccine schedule that minimizes the aluminum exposure.
Aluminum salts help your body create a better immune response. Aluminum salts are necessary to the vaccines we use. Without an adjuvant like aluminum, people could need more shots to be protected. Everyone is exposed to aluminum because there is much aluminum in the earth’s crust. It’s present in our food, air and water, including breast milk and formula. The aluminum in vaccines is similar to that found in 33 ounces of infant formula. Aluminum has been used and studied in vaccines for 75 years and is safe.